NCAA Week 2 Preview
Preview of Week 2 of the 2024 NCAA Season
Photo: Kameron Nelson (OSU) - Inside Gymnastics/Jessica Frankl
Michigan leads the pack after week one of competition, but will another team be able to knock them off the top seat? Here’s our preview of Week 2 of the 2024 NCAA season.
OU vs Air Force
The Oklahoma Sooners enter their 20th season without a loss on their home turf. Led by senior captains Jack Freeman and Daniel Simmons, the Sooners are likely to keep their record as they take on Air Force at home. With the loss of key team members Spencer Gooddell and Vitaliy Guimaraes, the Sooners will look to fresh talent to fill the gaps. Though Emre Dodanli has been key in OU’s line-ups, he has a long season ahead gearing up for the Olympics and OU may choose to rest him at the season opener. While Oklahoma is expected to come away with the win at home, there will be a couple of key battles to keep an eye on. OU’s Ignacio Yockers and Air Force’s Patrick Hoopes are some of the best in the business on pommel horse and are the frontrunners for that title. Air Force’s Oliver Zavel is expected to be in the fight for the all-around title if he opens the season competing all events. This meet will also serve as a homecoming for Air Force’s new assistant coach, David Henderson who was a four-time national champion with Oklahoma.
The meet will be streamed on ESPN+. If you are local, you can watch the meet at the McCasland Field House at 6:00 pm CT. The first 500 spectators will receive gymnastics glow sticks.
West Point Open
As a Winter Cup qualifying event, there’s more on the line this weekend than a team win. The two-day event will give athletes the opportunity to test their stamina early in the season.Penn State will face a back-to-back rematch against Army and will be joined in competition by Springfield College, William and Mary, and Navy.
Penn State should leave the West Point Open 2-0 but will be looking for more than just a win. Their opener against Army was not the complete meet they would have wanted and though they got the win, they will be in search of a much cleaner performance. Regardless of their overall performance, the Nittany Lions had the highest Difficulty Score of any team that competed in week one and will be looking to leverage that advantage in the quint meet this weekend. Some questions remain surrounding the return of Michael Jaroh. Jaroh has been a key contributor to Penn State’s line-ups in past season but due to injuries was forced to sit out of the 2024 opener. Teammates Michael Artlip and Landon Simpson are expected to be challenging for all-around bids to the 2023 Winter Cup in Jaroh’s absences.
With a home advantage, Army will be looking to improve upon a slow start to the season. Like Penn State, they have improvements to look forward to, specifically cleaning up dismounts. With three individual second place victories, Army will be looking for an individual event title on home turf. Maddox Pabbelon was the clostest of any with only a 0.2 deficit to first place on pommel horse and Zachary Perez will certainly be in the hunt on high bar if he repeats his routine with a cleaned-up dismount.
Academy rival, Navy will be looking for a strong start to their season while on enemy turf. Led by all-around star, Isaiah Drake, the top-ranked ECAC team will be the most likely to challenge Penn State for the top spot on the podium. Both Drake, Syam Buradagunta are Navy’s first all Americans in fifty years and are ones to watch this season.
Springfield College will open the season ranked 12th. While unlikely to challenge for the team title, they have a few key event stars that may challenge for spots on the podium. Junior, Felix Kridermann had a strong start to the 2023 season with a 76.350 in the all-around and a 13.800 on floor. Sophomore, Owen Carney has a strong vault and high bar; and Freshman, Peyton Cramer will be looking to have an immediate impact on pommel horse.
Rounding out the only quint meet of the weekend is William & Mary. Named to the ECAC pre-season watch list, 2023 USAG College Nationals All-Around Champion, Aidan Cuy, will seek to solidify himself as one of the top all-arounders in the country this season. Cuy will seek to lead the Tribe to a strong start as the teams seeks a bid to the NCAA National Championships.
You can watch the meet on YouTube on Friday, January 12th at 7:00 pm for team and all-around finals and event finals will be held Saturday, January 13th at 7:00 pm ET.
Windy City Invitational
Illinois is returning to the Windy City Invitation as the reigning champions. Bringing a strong contingent, they have what it takes to repeat but will face tough competition from the University of Michigan. Michigan currently leads the national standings after week one and will be looking to secure a score that will keep them as the number one team in the nation. Michigan is also fielding a strong duo of all-rounders who will be looking to secure a spot for the 2023 Winter Cup in Louisville, Kentucky. Freshman, Pierce Wolfgang is undefeated this year and will look for the biggest title of his career thus far at the Windy City tri-meet.
As a Winter Cup qualifier, several event specialists will have the opportunity to execute high-difficulty score routines and petition the men’s program for a spot to compete in Louisville. Illinois’ Connor McCool (FX), Brandon Dang (PH) and Ashton Anaya (SR) and Michigan’s Crew Bold (HB) and Javiar Alfonso (SR) will be among those seeking to petition based on D-score.
Coming off a banner week, Simpson stuck nine dismounts and will be looking to up that number of hit routines during their second season. As a newcomer on the playing field, the most likely outcome is for them to be the third out of three teams. However, they have a key individual who may surprise some for a spot on the podium. Sophomore, Sterling Pariza, set a program all-around record of 76.900 earning in ECAC and CGA honors for the week.
The competition begins at 7:00 pm CT in Chicago. Illinois will be streaming the meet live on their Instagram.
Stanford @ Cal
The four-time back-to-back National Champions are taking on California at the annual Cal Benefit Cup. With five guys currently on the Senior National Team, it would not be surprising to see Stanford rest some of its 14 returning veterans in favor of new faces, particularly Zach Green and David Shamah. While it’s likely that Stanford will win the meet, California head coach, JT Okada, has highly touted Aidan Li’s new “world class” pommel horse routine which will likely challenge for the title especially if Khoi Young is resting. The Bears are looking forward to graduate Student, Darren Wong returning to the line-up after facing multiple injuries. He is expected to contribute on pommel horse and still rings.
The event will take place at 6:00 pm PT and you can watch it live on the Pac-12 Network.
Ohio State Vs. Greenville
Greenville had their strongest season opener to date in their tri-meet against Michigan and Simpson. Despite 11 falls, Greenville came away with their second-highest team score ever and two event titles. They will face tough competition at Ohio State against a strong, championship-winning team. The Buckeyes have eyewatering difficulty in Kameron Nelson who can compete a triple back on three events (floor, still rings, and high bar). While Zach Connelly came away with the floor title at Michigan, he will have much stiffer competition in Ohio. If Greenville’s Logan Waterson is able to repeat his stuck Kas 1.5, he may come away with the 2nd vault title of his of career. His 14.95 is higher than any of the career high vaults form the Buckeyes. While Ohio State is more likely to take the win at home, it won’t be a walk in the park. Be on the lookout for the freshman debut of Chase Davenport-Mills as he is likely to be a key contributer this year. You can catch the action live on the Big Ten Network on Saturday, January 13th at 12:00 pm ET. Live stats can be found here.
Live stream links for each competition can be found on our NCAA Schedule page.
Article by: Kensley Behel
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